SHAMROCK ROVERS v Juventus. As U2 might put it, it’s far away, so close.
The exciting news for Hoops fans thrown up by yesterday’s Europa League draw has given rise to a complicated saga involving Ireland’s most famous rock band, Sporting Fingal and their own club, but the upshot of it all is that if Shamrock Rovers do progress to face Juventus in the Europa League, the Hoops will have to play the first leg away – and in Modena, not Turin.
The prospect of a meeting with the Italian giants has been rightly described as “mouthwatering” by Rovers chairman Jonathan Roche. However, he is anxious to stress that the club is primarily concentrating for now on the more immediate and very difficult task of prevailing in the second leg of their Second Round tie against Bnei Yehuda in Tel Aviv next Thursday. And, with the score at 1-1 from the first leg in Tallaght, it’s certainly the Israelis who will be seen as favourites to set up a third round clash with mighty Juve.
However, should Rovers make it through to what would be the most glamorous European fixture for an Irish club since Shelbourne took on Deportivo La Coruna in the Champions League in 2004, it has emerged that they will have to play their first leg away against the Italians despite having received nominal home advantage in the draw.
The reason is that there is also the live prospect of Sporting Fingal playing host at Dalymount Park to either Finland’s Honko Espoo or Welsh side Bangor City on the same night, Thursday July 29 – that is, if the Dubliners can overturn a 3-2 deficit against Portuguese side CS Maritimo in the second leg of their next second round tie Thursday. Under UEFA rules, two European ties cannot be played in the same city on the same night and, with Fingal gaining precedence as FAI Cup winners, it’s Rovers who would have to take their show on the road against Juventus.
But so too, as it happens, would Juve – some 300 kilometres away to Modena, in fact. And that’s because their temporary home ground, Torino’s Olympic Stadium, will already be undergoing work to prepare it for a concert by U2 there on August 6. Should Fingal not qualify for the next round, incidentally, it would not affect the order of any tie involving Rovers and Juventus since UEFA require that plans for same be confirmed with immediate effect.
So plenty of appetising food for thought there then but the harsh reality remains that Rovers won’t even get to sup at the top table if they don’t pull off what, in its own right, would be celebrated victory against Bnei Yehuda in Tel Aviv on Thursday. Responding to yesterday’s draw, Roche said: “It’s a great draw for either us or Bnei Yehuda. We had a tough game here in Tallaght on Thursday night, and it is set to be an even more difficult task for us on Thursday in Tel Aviv.
“Shamrock Rovers have played some very big clubs in Europe over the years but Juventus would be one of the biggest games in our history. It really is a magic draw. It would be a great stage for our players to take on a club like Juventus.”
The Rovers draw in the Europa League has eclipsed that of Bohemians in the Champions League which would be a big game in its own right since, should they retain or better their one-goal first leg lead against TNS in Wales next week, the Irish champions would be rewarded with a tie against famous Belgian side Anderlecht, the first leg to take place in Dalymount Park on either July 27 or 28.
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